The Deluge Genesis 7

God, who in the midst of judgment remembers mercy, gave the old world ample space for repentance. A hundred and twenty years was the time in which the appointed judgment was suspended. And here we may point out the incidental corroboration this affords to the duration which the record ascribes to human life before the flood. All  circumstances which do transpire are proportioned to that duration.
A hundred and twenty years would have been too long, according to the present duration of life; for many who were not born when the judgment was first denounced, would have died before it was accomplished; and so long a delay of judgment would have weakened the force of the denunciation, and would have allowed most people to view it as a thing not to happen in their time, and which, therefore, they would but lightly regard. But a hundred and twenty years was less than the eighth of the average duration of antediluvian life: and, in respect of warning, was not more to that generation than nine years would be to us. It was, therefore, an interval just long enough for effective warning, without being so long as to allow any man that lived, to deem that he might neglect that warning without danger.

Noah himself seems to have been the instrument of making this warning known, and of preaching repentance. St. Peter calls him “a preacher of righteousness” Note: 2Pe_2:5.]—from which, as well as from the probability of the case, we gather that he labored diligently to make known the purpose of God, and to exhort that untoward generation to flee from the wrath to come. But the construction of the ark was in itself a warning the most impressive. It evinced the sincerity of Noah’s conviction, that the judgment he declared really impended over mankind; and as its vast proportions slowly rose before the eyes of man, the rumor of this immense and strange undertaking must have spread far and wide, not unaccompanied with the report of the reasons which the builder gave for its construction. Thus “the long-suffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing.” Note: 1Pe_3:20.] Did it wait in vain? We cannot wholly say that. In the interval of a hundred and twenty years many must have died, among whom there may have been some who were suitably impressed by the threatened judgments of an offended God.

But we know, that of those that were alive just before the  flood came, there were none that took these things to heart. Our Savior himself, in a few awful words, describes their condition. “In the days that were before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered into the ark, and knew not—until the flood came, and took them all away.” Note: Mat_24:38-39.] We see too much around us, to be greatly astonished at this. We see at this day how few there are in the world, on whom the prospect of a judgment to come makes any serious impression; and we are assured by our Lord himself, that as it was in the days before the flood, so shall it be in the day when the Son of Man cometh.

There was a pause of seven days after Noah had entered the ark, before the flood of waters came. How awful that pause! Were there any who were then smitten with fear—any on whom the striking spectacle of the animals passing into the ark, and the Noahic family last of all entering, and all being then shut securely in, made any salutary impression? Our Savior says that they were obdurate until the day that Noah entered into the ark—were they all obdurate the day after—the seven days after? We cannot know. If any one then bethought himself of the evil of his way, and his heart turned to God, it was well for him, well for his soul; but it was too late for this world—the door of the ark was shut.

Even then the judgment was not instant. The fountains of the great deep were broken up, and the rain fell not in drops but in cataracts; yet it was not immediately that the lower levels were filled. Thus it was forty days before the ark floated, and a hundred and fifty days before the waters rose to their highest point, which was twenty-three feet above the highest mountains. Thus were the various tribes of creatures driven, day by day, from one resource to another, until none was left. The men who hoped that the waters would soon subside, or whose retreat from their towns and villages was cut off by the surrounding water, may be  conceived to have retreated to the towers and the trees, watching with horror the gradual rise of the waters, and dropping off, one by one, in fatigue and want, from the extremest boughs into the encroaching flood, even before its waters reached them. For those who retreated to the high lands, there was even a more terrible lot than for those whom the waters soonest slew. Thousands, who had succeeded in reaching the mountains, must have perished with hunger, even before the waters swept off the miserable remnant of their numbers. With them, how soon did the joy of escape to a station of fancied safety from the waters, give place to the consciousness that they were without food or the means of obtaining any, upon the mountains, and must speedily perish there unless the waters soon subsided? But they did not subside. They rose; and in their rise narrowed day by day the area of possible existence. The young and tender died—the aged died—men in their prime died—till at last, some sole survivor, who had seen all the dear companions of his prime perish before his eyes, stood alone upon the mountain, and rushed to meet the flood in his frenzy, or sunk into it in the listlessness of his despair.

The horrors of this most fearful judgment that the world has ever yet seen are imperfectly realized, if we think of it, as we usually do, as a sudden visitation. It was slow—dreadfully slow; and during the months in which the waters rose, the scenes of agony and despair which one day after another presented in different quarters, are such as strike terror into the heart, and sickness into the soul of him who suffers his mind to dwell upon them and to picture forth the horrible details. The eye shrinks from the backward view at the righteous judgment of God—and the ear vibrates with torture at the cries of children, at the sobs of women, at the groans of men, and at

“The bubbling cry
Of some strong swimmer in his agony.”